While some parents are sticklers for early bedtimes for kids, others don’t seem to care if their kids go to bed or not.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics says kids ages 2 to 3 should get 9 to 13 hours of sleep each night, a whole lot of tots are actually permitted to stay up as late as they want to night after night. In fact, quite a few parents allow their kids to call the shots when it comes to bed times. While most sleep specialists wax unenthusiastic about late bedtimes for kids, the toughest part of staying up late is actually on Mom and Dad.
“In most families, parents just aren’t going to have the energy to deal with a 3-year-old at 10:00 P.M., but I can’t tell you how many families I hear about who allow it,” says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep (HarperCollins, 1997).
In many homes, hectic family schedules and the reluctance of late-working parents to pack their kids off to bed early are driving the longer days. In other households, sheer parental exhaustion is allowing kids to win the sleeptime skirmishes.
Are you letting your child rule the bedtime roost? Here are tips for getting him down earlier for that much needed sleep:
• Push back your child’s bedtime by no more than 15 minutes a day or, better, by 15 minutes every two to three days.
• Manipulate your child’s exposure to light, which experts say affects the hormones that control our internal clock. To help nudge an internal clock backward, aim for lots of bright light in the morning. Activity and natural light help too. So head to the playground after breakfast. At the other end, dim the lamps as it gets closer to bedtime.
• Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, including rowdy play, television watching, and video-game use. Substitute quiet, soothing rituals: a warm glass of milk, a bath, a bedtime story.